We have been delighted that our schools have been open since the start of the school year for in-person learning. We are following our published academic calendar. Most students are learning from home until our scheduled February break.

The ACS staff and parent community have created a welcoming and engaging COVID-19 safe programme—in person and online—with the imagination and determination that makes ACS schools such special places to work and learn. We are confident and ready to inspire our learners and provide a unique educational experience for the remainder of the school year.

We continue to exercise extraordinary care and use industry best-practice for COVID-19 security in every aspect of school life. We take all reasonable precautions. Here are some of the robust systems of control that we use to minimise risk and ensure the safety of students, families and employees learning and working on campus.

Health and safety

Essential measures of our ‘prevent and respond’ strategy include: 

  • a requirement that people who are ill stay at home
  • robust hand and respiratory hygiene
  • enhanced cleaning arrangements
  • active engagement with NHS Test and Trace
  • consideration of how to reduce contacts and maximise distancing between those in school, wherever possible.

The principal measures by which we will reduce contacts will (as much as possible) include:

  • grouping students together
  • avoiding contact between groups
  • arranging classrooms with forward-facing desks
  • staff maintaining distance from students and other staff as much as possible.

Our dedicated medical centres are staffed by trained school nurses who have access to support from local GPs. Our lead nurse facilitates common campus policies and practice. School nurses work in close collaboration with local health authorities and in line with standards set by the Medical Officers of Schools Association.

Temperature checks are not required on site, but students and staff must ensure sure they don’t have a fever before leaving for school. Masks are not required in teaching environments. Older students must wear face coverings in specified indoor settings and communal spaces (such as hallways and corridors) where school groups/bubbles are mixed and it’s difficult to maintain 1m or further social distancing. Students 11 years and older must wear face coverings on ACS busses.

All staff, including temporary teachers and coaches, are trained in infection control and mental health first aid.

School nurses are available throughout the school day and are on hand to conduct temperature checks if needed.

We have robust plan for identifying and isolating students who develop COVID-19 symptoms at school. We work closely with local health protection authorities to report coronavirus-related absences, and notify anyone who has been in close and extended contact with confirmed coronavirus infections (as required).

We attend to the mental health and wellbeing of faculty, staff and students by

  • monitoring self-reported measures (Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Health Scale)
  • providing access to internal and external resources (including school counsellors and an Employee Assistance Programme)
  • educating for wellness in a dynamic programme of personal. health, social, and relationships education, along with advisory groups for personalised pastoral care.
Learning and teaching

Small homeroom or year group (grade-level) cohorts stay together for most of the school day, and they use the same spaces as much as possible. Where possible, teachers rotate to work with fixed groups of students in their identified learning spaces.

We’ve carefully reviewed our facilities to ensure adequate ventilation and safe capacity. Wherever possible, students have individual desks, facing forward, spaced at 1m for social distancing (Grade 2 and above). Teachers generally work at a 2m social distance and engage with students side-to- side for short conversations. Where social distancing is not possible, we use face coverings, shields or modified scheduling to reduce risk of infection.

Specialist learning spaces are individually risk-assessed, and additional PPE is provided when a full, broad and balanced curriculum requires interaction that can’t be adequately socially-distanced. We provide a full educational programme of visual and performing arts, design, and laboratory sciences that follow strict safety guidelines of the relevant professional associations.

Teachers are prepared to support students temporarily learning from home while in isolation. We also have extensive contingency plans should it be necessary for large groups of students (or, in the case of another local or national lockdown) to learn at a distance.

We use best-in-class educational technologies and hybrid-ready instructional design. We support student learning regardless of location, easing necessary transitions between home and school. ACS schools have extensive outdoor spaces and athletic and sports facilities. These excellent fresh-air environments provide inspiring spaces in which to learn, play and compete.

School life

The ACS Estates and Facilities team strictly follow government guidance, and our staff comply with training and practice standards established by the British Institute of Cleaning Science. We sanitise high-touch public surfaces and common spaces four times each work/school day. Rooms are thoroughly cleaned each evening. Teams are prepared to conduct ‘deep cleans’ of spaces affected by any confirmed cases of COVID-19. Each room is equipped with sterilisation supplies.

Drop off and pick up are carefully controlled to limit congregating. One-way systems and zone controls are in place to prevent crowding.

Catering services are conducted according to Government guidelines for commercial food service. Younger students will begin the year eating in their classrooms. Dining halls will be limited in capacity and older students will eat in socially-distanced shifts.

We won’t be holding assemblies and large group meetings for the time being. Libraries and other shared facilities are capacity-limited and subject to enhanced cleaning regimes. We are not undertaking international travel for the foreseeable future. Educational visits will be limited and local.

We will review these operational changes after the autumn break (half term), and ease restrictions as soon it’s safe to do so.

Extra-curricular programme

During lockdown, we are unable to offer after-school activities. When campuses are open for most students or selected year groups, a full range of after school activities are available—in person and online. Late busses are available with advance registration.

ACS athletic directors and coaches are working closely with our school sports associations and sport-specific governing bodies to plan the year. We expect play to return to a more normal condition as the year progresses. We are considering opportunities to adjust seasons and focus on intramural and local competitions so that student athletes can enjoy a full experience of school sport.

We will prioritise skills development and (re-)conditioning that support a wide range of interests, activities, and fitness levels.

Boarding at ACS Cobham

ACS has adopted the BSA COVID-Safe Charter, a voluntary code to assure international boarders and their parents that schools have done everything they can to ensure their safety when they return.

We have risk-assessed the boarding provision and adapted policies and procedures to ensure risk is minimised. But we will also ensure the spirit and fun of boarding continues so that our students have a fantastic year at ACS.

Each boarding house lives as a separate household, balancing the importance of a full family- based boarding programme with the important of maintaining consistent groups. During the school day, boarders are incorporated into their respective independent year group/ grade level cohorts.

Boarding student have full medical support. Boarding houses have isolation rooms and can accommodate students in temporary travel quarantine or self-isolation. House parents monitor the health of boarding students daily.

Any boarder who show signs of being unwell with potential COVID-19 symptoms will be required to return to their family, guardian or agent until the boarding nurse has given permission for the student to return. While waiting for arrangements to be made, the boarder will remain isolated from the boarding house.

Visitors and events

During the period of national lockdown, only essential visitors are allowed on campus.

Virtual admissions tours and Open Days are available for prospective families.

Our hierarchy of control measures
ACS Coronavirus Mass Testing Programme

What is the purpose of a mass testing programme in schools?

Mass testing is part of the UK’s public health efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus. By participating, you are helping to keep your community safe. You may find this BBC Explainer to be helpful. The NHS has also prepared a summary of the programme- why it’s happening, and how it works.

Why has ACS conducting mass testing?

We believe it’s a good way to work with our community, provide a service to ACS families, and augment the already strong measures we have in place to help keep students learning safely on-site.

What groups are eligible for testing, and how often?

Following government guidelines, we intend to weekly tests to staff and students who are working and learning on campus.

Beginning 18 January, we expect to offer serial testing for close contacts of positive cases, which can allow students and staff to continue learning and working on campus rather than having to self-isolate if they have been in close and sustained contact with a positive case. Students and staff who have been in close contact with a positive case do not have to self-isolate if they have negative lateral flow test results for seven consecutive days. For participating students, if the seventh day falls on a weekend or school holiday, a confirmatory negative test is required on the first day back in school.

Is participation mandatory for students or staff?

No. But we highly encourage eligible students and staff to participate so that we can keep our schools as safe as possible, and help students remain learning in a full educational programme, on-campus with their teachers.

What testing technology is being used?

The ACS Coronavirus Mass Testing Programme uses the Innova SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Rapid Qualitative Test, supplied by the UK government. These are Lateral Flow Devices like the one was used in the Liverpool Mass Testing pilot. The test requires a swab of the participant’s nose and throat. Results are available in around 30 minutes.

What guidance has the government provided to schools to support mass testing?

The government’s mass testing programme for schools was announced on 15 December. Over the winter break, the Department for Education and NHS have provided guidelines, training and support materials for state-supported and independent schools (including technology overviews, communication materials, relevant policies and technical guidance).

How will testing help day to day education?

By identifying chains of transmission that might be supported by people who are infected with the virus but have no symptoms, we will be helping to limit the spread in our larger community during the period of national lockdown.

Serial close-contact testing can help students remain on-campus for learning when they would otherwise have to self-isolate for 10 days when they have been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19.

Weekly testing provides reassurance that our school communities remain healthy. It also helps interrupt potential chains of transmission by identifying asymptomatic cases of the disease.


Updated 10 January 2021

1. What are the guiding principles of ACS’s return to campus?

We follow guidance developed by the UK government, applying its directives to our own contexts, resources and facilities. While we respectfully review and remain mindful of other schools’ decisions and the public health/ educational policies of many countries, we rely on the best judgment of the UK’s elected leaders and their engagement with the national public health authorities. Both as a matter of public spiritedness and in our capacity as a registered charity, we believe this is the most reasonable and practical basis on which to make strategic and operational decisions during a public health emergency.

2. What essential control measures does ACS have in place to ‘prevent and respond to’ transmission of coronavirus:

  • a requirement that people who are ill stay at home

  • robust hand and respiratory hygiene, and fresh-air ventilation

  • enhanced cleaning arrangements

  • active engagement with NHS Test and Trace, and the NHS app

  • wearing face coverings on school transport and in common areas (staff and older students)

  • formal consideration of how to reduce contacts and maximise distancing between those in school wherever possible and minimise potential for contamination so far as is reasonably practicable

  • mass asymptomatic testing.

The principal measures by which we will reduce contacts will (as much as possible) include:

  • grouping students together
  • avoiding contact between groups
  • arranging classrooms with forward facing desks
  • staff maintaining distance from students and other staff as much as possible.

3. What is the ACS Community Public Health Citizenship Charter?

We believe that we’re all in this together: students, teachers, school leaders, other staff, parents, and members of the larger communities to which we belong. Our individual and collective behaviour on and off campus affects our long term ability to provide the onsite educational programmes that we value and which leads to the best student learning outcomes.

We encourage everyone to be informed, take care and stay well. We expect all members of the ACS community to follow government guidelines for containing the virus.

We encourage everyone 16 years of age and older to download and use the NHS COVID-19 contact tracing app.

You can download the ACS Community Public Health Citizenship Charter here


4. What’s been done to make ACS facilities as safe as possible?

We have undertaken a complete review of our facilities and operations to make sure we can support a safe full return to campus-based learning. Following government 5 guidance, we have consulted widely with authoritative groups to develop a comprehensive checklist-based approach to ensure that we are ready safely to welcome back all students, parents and staff back to our facilities.

Among the actions we’ve taken include:

  • securing the advice of health and safety experts to make and review our plans
  • organised facilities in ways that lower risk of transmission, including where possible one way systems
  • communicated clearly that symptomatic individuals do not attend
  • provided materials, procedures and reminder which promote regular hand cleaning, respiratory hygiene, sanitation and social distancing ● created secure spaces and rapid response plans for handling potential cases
  • confirmed that our cleaning procedures meet British Institute of Cleaning Science (BICSc) standards and recommendations as well as relevant guidance for food services, office spaces and non-health care settings
  • conduct a comprehensive facilities utilisation and ventilation review, analysing traffic flow, pinch points, communal spaces and capacity limitations ● purchased additional furniture to provide more single, front facing desks
  • added Perspex shields to protect personnel in close contact with external visitors
  • provided extra hand-sanitising facilities at key locations
  • provisioned rooms with cleaning supplies and appropriate PPE for managing poor respiratory hygiene
  • Increased the frequency of cleaning throughout the day
  • replaced open waste bins with covered receptacles, and added covers to toilets to reduce aerosol transmission.

5. Whom have you consulted / taken advice from with respect to the risk assessment strategy?

The key sources of information and standards for Covid-safe schools upon which rely include:

NHS and Public Health England
National Association of Head Teachers
Confederation of School Trusts
National Education Union ACAS (Advice, Conciliation and Arbitration Service)
The Key for School Leaders
Surrey County Council
Southalls Associates (our legal Health and Safety ‘competent person’)
Boarding Schools’ Association
Independent School Bursars Association
Council of International Schools
Medical Officer of Schools Association
ACS Health and Safety and Facilities & Estates professionals.

In addition, we consult with our broader international schools networks as well as a wide range of relevant specialist advisory bodies and professional groups (for example, the Association for Physical Education and the Musician’s Union).

6. Where can I find ACS Covid-19 risk assessments?

In the downloads further down this webpage.

7. Why don’t we publish school-specific risk assessments?

Our COVID-19 risk assessment strategy is led by three master risk assessments, including a public-facing document for parents, that outline a hierarchy of control measures that school teams apply across a range of facilities and activities. Site-specific risk assessments are technical business work products that document the applications of those principles to particular people, roles and facilities. Through our communication plan, we keep parents and students fully informed of particulars at the school and divisional level.


DIscover our beautiful green campuses


Maintaining safe COVID-secure facilities

Maintaining safe COVID-secure facilities

Taking care of teachers, too

Taking care of teachers, too

Integrating educational technologies

Integrating educational technologies

Exploring the great outdoors

Exploring the great outdoors

Playing fresh-air games and sports

Playing fresh-air games and sports

Engaging visual and performing arts

Engaging visual and performing arts

Living together as a family of boarders

Living together as a family of boarders

Learning through service

Learning through service

Working with our community

Working with our community

Safe transportation following government guidelines

 Bus routes are finalised while safety measures

Signage to guide visitors

Signage to guide visitors

Sanitisation stations dotted around campus

Sanitisation stations dotted around campus
I noticed that my girls and their friends were a little anxious about the start of the school year because of Covid. But as soon as school started all that nervousness disappeared. They are clearly very happy to be back and feel very comfortable and safe. I am sure that creating that safe environment hasn't happened by accident, but instead has required a lot of planning and organising, and being mindful about how you talk about the new arrangements. It very much feels like a normal start of a school year and instead of talking about the new safety measures at school, they talk about classes, friends, which teachers they have, i.e. all the normal stuff. Thank you again to you all for creating this environment.
Arrivals and visitors

Arrivals and visitors

All arrivals and departures at ACS campuses are managed by our fully-trained security teams. Detailed procedures are in place for the safe drop-off and pick-up of all students at each campus.

General visitors to the campus will not be admitted without the prior permission of the school. Visitors are not required to use face coverings, but may choose to. We require all visitors to maintain strict social distancing, hand sanitising, and respiratory hygiene.


Our Admissions teams are able to offer private virtual tours and virtual open days for prospective families.

Please register here to book a private tour or open day